About Me

Books are my life and they always have been.    I was probably the only student at James Vernor (yes, the pop) Elementary School in Detroit to ever receive an A from Belle Gordon, the librarian.  I earned this A because when Miss Gordon asked us to put our books down I was so lost in my reading that I didn’t hear her.   A shy thing back then, I wanted to crawl under the table while the class roared in hysterics.  That was how I was “picked” to work in the library and found my true calling.  I’ve been working in libraries and bookstores ever since.

I’ve always been an avid and eclectic reader.  For the last 30 years I have been a book dealer and collector.    My first store was Toad Hall Books, and the second, The Eclectic Reader, was closed in October, squeezed out of a retail location by a national franchise and currently residing in a storage unit.  It’s hard to make a living in book dealing.  What Americans want is escapism and pap and that’s not the kind of books I want to sell.   Entertainment reading has its place but a constant diet of that sort of thing leads to mental obesity.

I’m a natural-born keeper of ephemera.  I have preserved letters for over 40 years.   It’s amazing how well paper keeps…even cheap paper.  Establishing an archive for the  diaries of the common person has been my dream for some time.

I no longer remember where I got the idea to keep a journal.  The earliest one I still have is from 1964.  I just started writing and kept on.  I never thought about anyone reading my diaries.   The journal has been my way of working things out.  It has been my truest friend and confidante, my best listener.  Some people keep vast photo albums.  The journal is my “story” album.

One could say I am a dedicated book person, collector of ephemera, and diarist.

I am also a beekeeper of 42 years experience and have been a homesteader or “hobby farmer”…raising goats, chickens, fruit trees, perennials, vegetables and herbs.    I’ve worked many years with children and pets.  Was a single parent…now I’m a doting grandma.  I’m an obsessive cat lover, a collector of houseplants.   I love belly dance and all forms of dance, though at my age it is all from the sidelines.    A long time ago I spent 8 years in a utopian community/cult in California.   I have much experience living below the poverty level.  I have written about all of these things in my journals.

Now, at the beginning of 2014, I seem to be moving away from the farming and gardening.  The bees have succumbed to CCD.  Decisions will have to be made.  What will I do next with my life?


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16 Responses to “About Me”

  1. Michele Says:

    I stumbled upon your blog while trying to answer a question I have about the diary Edward Robb Ellis kept most of his life. I am delighted to have found you. I don’t have a blog, but I did keep a journal of my travels this past summer along the Oregon Trail in an RV….. Anyway, if you are familiar with Ellis’ book, A Diary of the Century, perhaps you know why, of all the things he wrote about, he does not have an entry for the day of JFK’s assassination. He mentions the assassination in other entries but here is no entry specifically dedicated to it. Perhaps he wrote about it in his unexpurgated diary, but the book itself does not include it. Given everything else he wrote about in detail, I find this omission astonishing…Best wishes, Michele


  2. cynthiamanuel Says:

    I took out my tattered, book-marked and underlined copy of A Diary of the Century by Edward Robb Ellis – which is my favourite published diary – to see if I could find an entry for the JFK assassination. Nope. Why would they omit it? The only way to find an answer would be to contact New York University’s Fales Library (Special Collections, I presume).

    It is somewhat a mystery why we do not write about certain important life events. I did not write my daughter’s birth story until a year later. I think words could not describe the awesome peak experience of going through natural childbirth and bringing forth another human being. Oddly enough I also had to leave the pages blank for the day I watched my daughter give birth to my granddaughter. How can you capture deeply spiritual or emotional events (dare I say “sacred”)? Words almost cheapen the experience.

    Of course the other side to this is how can you write about a life event that is deeply tragic? I’ve had that too, with animals. Sometimes things are too raw. You are in shock. Only time covers the wounding with enough distance to be able to write about it.

    Edward Robb Ellis wrote about the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. What would he have written after 9-ll? (He died in 1998.) I was able to write about it only because I was not at ground zero.

    Do you have any theories as to why diarists omit certain events?



  3. philip turner Says:

    Dear Cynthia, I’m excited to see you’ve been blogging about “A Diary of the Century” and Edward Robb Ellis. I was the editor of “Diary.” You ask many good questions about the book, and what was included in it and why. It’s been almost two decades, but in the case of Nov. 22, 1963, I believe Eddie insisted that he hadn’t written anything wise or even coherent after JFK was murdered, and had no entry from that day or in the days following he could include. Few events befuddled him like that, though the death of his wife Ruth did a few years later. At that point in the ms., I urged him to go back and create an entry in what became the only retrojection into the book’s text. He wrote an entry where one had never existed. He hadn’t been able to write after she died, but I said readers wouldn’t be satisfied, if after meeting Ruthie in the book, he simply left it that she’d died. He did as I asked, and really dove into the abyss to write it. It became one of the book’s most powerful entries. But as for JFK, I recall asking him and he had nothing to give me. He did most of the culling for the book from the magnum opus, his 22-million word diary. I still champion Eddie and his work.


  4. Jenny Gawthrop Says:

    Dear Cynthia,
    I am writing to ask how I would go about leaving my journals to the National Diary Archive project you are heading. I am in my late twenties and I haven’t really made out a will, as at this point I really don’t have any personal possessions I feel require special instructions to dispense out among my family, accept my journals. An acquaintance of mine from high school was killed in a car accident and in the grief and anger at the futility of a life being cut so short their family burned this person’s journals. They said something about it being cathartic and a last way of letting this person go. To me it was an outrage. It was as if in a single night the family had erased this unique person’s existence and reduced them to a soulless face in old family photographs that are remembered in the current generation but then lost in the next fifty or seventy years to obscurity. I know this person was not thinking about mortality when their number was called up so suddenly and I didn’t feel it was appropriate to ask if the bonfire was one of their wishes. I just know I don’t want that to happen to my own journals in case something unexpected happens to me. I’m not trying to be arrogant or anything, but the idea of my box full of the journals I’ve kept since I was ten just going up in flames makes me want to cry. Is there an address or something I can leave in my box for my journals to be sent to just in case? I know my mother will understand and follow through if my own family doesn’t want to keep them.
    Sincerely Yours, Jenny Gawthrop


  5. cynthiamanuel Says:

    I would have to agree with you that the burning of those journals was tragic and a dishonor to the individual, unless it was a request. It makes you wonder if the family wanted to hide something.

    When my mother died in November she left behind all the old family photo albums. When I look at them I think about those “soulless faces.” How I wish I knew something more about each of them. Just one journal or even one letter would open worlds into knowing and understanding my ancestors. I want to know if my great-great grandfather was really as stern as he looks. I wonder if there are any traits I share with my ancestors besides physical appearance. What do we have in common?

    I am lucky to have some journals and some letters. These are absolute treasures.

    To answer your question: I would suggest writing down your wishes for your journals. Keep a copy yourself with your important papers and give a copy to your mother. It would be a good idea to talk it over with your mother to be sure she would honor your request.

    I would be willing to accept them for a future archive. If I die before the archive becomes “official,” they would go with all of my collection to whomever manages to achieve the goal of creating a national archive.

    Be sure to stipulate in your instructions whatever restrictions you would like to put on making the journals public. You need to state if a certain amount of time should pass before the journals may be read.

    When I die all of my things will be just things, but my journals are a part of me, an expression of who I am, and they may be the only lasting contribution I make in this world, as all of my gardens will turn to weeds.


  6. Catherine Says:

    Dear Cynthia,

    This is truly exciting!!

    I am working (slowly, rather slowly around work) to get the word out for the need of such an Archive in the UK (seems the Isle of Wight already has one -hoorah!). Do you have twitter? Perhaps we can ‘tweet’ ‘re tweet’ and ‘follow’ in the hope of spreading the word. I also have a blog (link attached)though I hasten to say yours is rather more advanced…

    Thanks for the fascinating blog,


  7. Diary Archive (@DiaryArchive) Says:

    I am glad to be finding ever more people with this shared interest!


  8. Virginia Says:

    nice to see a few others out there as interested as I am in reading historical diaries. I found a 1917 diary written by a young man who worked for Mr. Hershey and went to college. I’ve translated it from french (he wrote it that way to hide it, I think) and put it on my site. http://www.virginiaserpico.com
    it’s pretty interesting reading, and the best part is I was able to find his yearbooks online and know what everyone looked like!


  9. barbaramcdowellwhitt Says:

    Cynthia, I have a “pop-up” invitation from Facebook to “create a group,” so I am hoping to start one called Diary Writers and Readers. I really appreciate the people who have taken the time to comment on your blog regarding your efforts and with their own stories. Facebook wants me to add some people to my group, so my present task is to locate a few “charter” members whose presence I can find on Facebook. I hope you won’t mind my inviting those I have found by way of your blog.


  10. Virginia Says:

    i think that’s a great idea. please leave me a message on my facebook page when you get it going! http://www.facebook.com/virginiaserpico

    i’m just starting to transcribe a 1904 travel journal I bought, but whew the handwriting is gonna be a challenge.



  11. Anna Griffith Says:


    I love this idea so much. I’ve followed this blog on and off for quite a while and I just had to tell you how much I appreciate the fact that someone is doing this. I am 24 years old and I have kept a journal regularly since I was nine years old. I have fifteen journals full of entries right now. Although I hope the decision of what to do with my journals when I die is one I can put off for a while, I still often think about where they will end up in a hundred years or something. So many diaries are lost or forgotten or damaged and the idea that there could be an archive where they could be preserved for future generations is so fantastic.

    I will be following your project faithfully!



  12. Jannatul Ferdous Says:

    Hello Cynthia,

    It’s very nice reading your blog. I was searching for some place where I can give my diaries for archive so that they are not lost in course over time. I am from Bangladesh. Can I send my diaries to you so that you can save them for your National Diary Archive?

    Eagerly waiting for your kind reply.

    Jannatul Ferdous
    Dhaka, Bangladesh


  13. Archives Passe-Memoire Says:

    Hi, I’m director of Archives Passe-Mémoire in Montreal: we collect personal writings (diaries, letters, memoirs) of “ordinary” persons. We publish a Bulletin twice a year. Is your organisation still going? If so, I would mention it inn the Bulletin.


  14. Steven Leibo Says:

    Is this diary archive still active?


  15. Cynthia Manuel Says:

    I post on the website occasionally. I am still here in Fort Collins, Colorado. All of my diaries and the ones I have collected are stored in my office. I work six days a week as a bookdealer and that takes most of my time. (eclecticreaderbooks.com) You could say the archive is awaiting my retirement. I am 73 and have been in the book business for 37 years. I look forward to having the hours to devote to the archive. Would love to have help getting it off the ground now. There is much to do. Sincerely, Cynthia Manuel


  16. Alicia Says:

    I am an introverted diary writer and have diaries dating back to about age 7. I am now 58! I live in the Denver area, and am thrilled to see you are in Ft. Collins. The last few years I am increasingly concerned what will happen to my diaries when I am gone.

    I have done some googling and found a site and a woman who even wrote a book on the subject of old diaries from common people. She says the only diary archives she knows of are in the UK and Italy.

    I really would love to send my diaries to an “archive” where objective, non relatives could keep them. I admit my fantasy is somebody, say 200 years from now cracking it open and fantasizing about just who I was!


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